The Murder of a Prison Guard

Street Address : 55 Kennedy Street
Audio: click to listen

This red two-story house was formerly the residence of penitentiary Guard and Messenger John D. Kennedy. The residence also has a noted architectural heritage, built shortly before 1857 by Robert Abbey, a Portsmouth mariner and carpenter.

The Kennedy family had a long association with K.P. over a number of generations. Like his father before him, John was the prison messenger at the Kingston Penitentiary for many years. His history was uniquely tied to Kingston Penitentiary due to the fact that he was born in an apartment within the old West gatehouse of the institution. This gatehouse functioned as an entrance during the days of shipping but was demolished in 1926.

Employees of the penitentiary put themselves at great personal risk in the course of their duties. The Messenger was no different. On April 26, 1948 Kennedy was victim of a violent escape by two prisoners: Austin Craft and Howard Urquhart. That morning Kennedy was driving across the penitentiary compound to the North Gate in order to exit the facility. On the way he saw inmate Austin Craft who was also on his way to the gate in order to carry out his job of disposing of garbage there. Knowing Craft, he offered him a ride to the gate. Unknown to the officer, hidden in the trunk of the car was another prisoner, named Urquhart. Once inside the gatehouse, Craft held Kennedy at gunpoint and demanded the keys to leave the penitentiary. Kennedy refused and was shot and killed. Craft then stole the keys, unlocked the main gate and left the institution in the car. This resulted in a large-scale search of the area as police across Ontario were notified of the escape. However, the search was quickly over as later that day both Craft and Urquhart were recaptured a short distance outside of Kingston in the village of Sydenham.

For his role in Kennedy’s death, Craft was sentenced to death. His hanging was the last execution to occur in Kingston. In 1949, Craft was hung in the Frontenac County Jail, previously located behind the Frontenac County Courthouse. While capital punishment was legal in Canada until 1976, it was only practiced until 1962. Capital executions were never carried out at the Kingston Penitentiary. Before the abolition of capital punishment, when a sentence of death was warranted, the execution was carried out at a county or provincial jail.

Tours : Prisoner
Heading : The Murder of a Prison Guard
Location Name : Former home of Guard Messenger John D. Kennedy
City : Kingston
Period : 1850-1900
Image :

Return to Penitentiary City Map